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Texmaker tames LaTeX

By Stefan Hansen on March 27, 2008 (8:00:00 AM)

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Texmaker is an editor for the document markup language LaTeX. It lets you concentrate on the content of a document, while the underlying LaTeX engine takes care of the layout. Whether you are experienced with LaTeX or just starting out, Texmaker makes LaTeX easier to tame. It is GPL-licensed, cross-platform (running on Linux, Unix, Windows, and Mac OS X), and extremely stable.

It's a common misconception that LaTeX is useful only for people who write documents with extensive mathematical formulas. It's true that LaTeX stands out when it comes to making professional-looking mathematical formulas, but it's far from the only thing LaTeX is good at. People in the academic world can also benefit from its citation and footnote facilities. Even for people writing non-scientific documents, Texmaker is a great tool. The fact that Texmaker helps you focus on the content without distracting you with typography, is something every writer will benefit from, especially when working with long, highly structured documents such as articles, reports, and books.

If you know LaTeX, you will be able to use Texmaker in a matter of minutes. The difficulty lies in learning LaTeX. People with no experience with LaTeX will probably have to spend a couple of days to get going with Texmaker. If you have experience with HTML, or any other markup language, you can do it in less.

You can install Texmaker from your distribution's repositories, or download it from the developers' site. Naturally you need to have LaTeX installed for Texmaker to work; the recommended package is Tex Live. Also, you need a document viewer to view the generated output files, and the Aspell spellchecker.

The first time you launch Texmaker you might have to tell Texmaker where your LaTeX compilers and viewers are located. On Linux they should be located in your bin directory; on Windows you often need to manually locate your PDF viewer within the Programs directory.

The Texmaker interface consists of an editor window, a structure tree to the left, and a message/log area below that displays information related to the compilation of your document, along with a menu and toolbars.

The structure tree gives an overview of the sections and subsections in your document. By clicking on a section in the tree, you can move the cursor to the corresponding position in the editor window. Every time you save your document, the structure tree is updated. Unfortunately, subsection branches collapse when you save your document, which means you have to open them manually again if you want to revisit a particular spot.

To start working on a new document, choose File -> New from the menu. You can then start typing away, or you can use Menu -> Quick Start to have Texmaker insert code for a letter, an article, a book, or whatever you like. It's kind of like using a template in a word processor, except that you see the LaTeX markup instead of WYSIWYG.

With the markups you describe the structure of the document in terms of sections, paragraphs, lists, citations, and so on. You can insert automatically generated footnotes and citations or a table of contents with a single tag. When you compile your document, LaTeX formats your document according to the template you have chosen and the layout code you have written.

 

You can insert markup tags in different ways. You can type them, insert them from the menu or toolbar, or use a keyboard shortcut. You can configure keyboard shortcuts to suit your preferences. For some reason, the most often used tags are not assigned a shortcut by default, so this is one of the first things you should do after installing Texmaker. To do so, go to Options -> Configure Texmaker -> Editor menu. Tags are colored, so they are easy to distinguish from the text itself.

Before you can see how your document looks you need to save and compile it. Compiling a document gives you output in PDF, DVI, or PostScript format. When Texmaker is configured to Quick Build (Options -> Configure Texmaker -> Quick Build), this is a matter of two keystrokes, and you will see your document in a viewer for its format.

If there are errors in your code, Texmaker will tell you in the message/log window. If you click the Next LaTeX Error icon in the toolbar, your cursor will move to where the error is, and there will be an explanation in the message/log area. After correcting any errors you have, you can view your document.

New users will most likely compile and view their documents often -- a habit that springs from the use of WYSIWYG word processors. Gradually, you will compile and view your documents less frequently, and you will become more productive.

If you need help you can access the LaTeX reference from the help menu. There is also a user manual, but it is somewhat limited.

The alternatives

Another editor/IDE for LaTeX is KDE's Kile. Texmaker is a more simple application than Kile, which in many cases is an advantage. However, when it comes to opening and compiling large documents (100 pages or more), Kile is faster than Texmaker.

If you would like a semi-WYSIWYG interface, LyX might be what you are looking for. Texmaker is better for learning LaTeX, since LyX hides the LaTeX code, but for some people this is not important. LyX uses its own file format, whereas both Kile and Texmaker use pure LaTeX. Choosing between Texmaker and LyX is mostly a matter of temperament.

To jump from using a traditional word processor to using a LaTeX-editor like Texmaker is a bold and brave move, since it's way different from what most people are used to. That said, there is a good reason why people who do jump, mostly stay onboard.

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on Texmaker tames LaTeX

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Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 77.11.34.62] on March 27, 2008 09:05 AM
My experience is that Texmaker runs quite slow on KDE... Kile is imo better...

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Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.38.30.74] on March 27, 2008 09:31 AM
I agree that Texmaker is very user friendly, and the same goes for Kile. I would however like to mention that the best TeX editor imho without any comparison is emacs with auctex and preview-latex. Its super fast, has _very_ nice highlighting possibilities and you can even generate live previews of e.g. inserted graphics.

The perhaps most useful aspect of it is however its integration with bibtex and reftex which is essential to anyone writing a larger book or thesis.

By using emacs as your LaTeX editor you also have all the possibilities for text manipulation and really great integration with the tools of the underlying OS which this editor offers.

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Re: Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 193.156.106.31] on March 27, 2008 01:09 PM
The best editor for LaTeX is of course vim with the vim-latexsuite plugin

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Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 86.134.127.209] on March 27, 2008 11:20 AM
You'll have to try *very* hard (ps preview in a tab, automatic drag and drop \figure support or .log/.aux clean-up) to seduce me away from vim-latexsuite, but I appreciate you trying! :D

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Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.105.79.64] on March 27, 2008 12:46 PM
I am new to latex and I have tried both Texmaker and Kile. I prefer Kile simply because it will create latex2pdf even with warning of errors while Texmaker refused to do it.

My experiments with both Texmaker and Kile were to copy and paste text, say from an article online, then applied appropriate mark up tags.

The most common errors I saw were something like "too long" but when looking at the paragraphs where the error was pointing, I could not see what was wrong. At first, I thought the paragraph was to long, but that was not the case since some errors pointing to the paragraphs that no more than 2 sentences long.

It had to do with copy-and-paste, I suspected, but these were text. I even tried copy-and-paste from web to text editor, then copy-and-paste from text editor to either Kile or Texmaker and still see errors.

Anyway, I really liked the way the pdf files were produced from these tools. They are very professional looking. Much better than the pdf files produced from OpenOffice.org of the same text. The spacing of words and paragraphs somehow better.

Too bad, these tools can't produce pdf files with clickable hyperlinks. Or I don't know how as I am a completely new to latex.

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Re: Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.179.49.129] on March 27, 2008 01:57 PM
> Too bad, these tools can't produce pdf files with clickable hyperlinks. Or I don't know how as I am a completely new to latex.

They can, and the links look better than anything else I've seen so far! :-)

You have to use the hyperref package and compile your files with pdflatex instead of the latex2ps -> ps2pdf sequence. Using this, all your URLs, page/figure/table references, citations and so on will be clickable links inside the PDF!

More info on hyperref: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX/Packages/Hyperref

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Re(1): Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.105.79.64] on March 27, 2008 04:58 PM
>> They can, and the links look better than anything else I've seen so far! :-)

>> You have to use the hyperref package and compile your files with pdflatex instead of the latex2ps -> ps2pdf sequence. Using this, all your URLs, page/figure/table references, citations and so on will be clickable links inside the PDF!

>> More info on hyperref: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX/Packages/Hyperref

Thanks for the tip!

I was hoping that it was possible but I didn't push hard to look for the solution because of my limited understanding about latex. I thought latex is a tool to help people produce professional looking *printed* documents like books, thesis, etc. And the pdf produced from these tools are like preview of what documents look like in print.

Now that I know better, I will play with it some more because this could become handy to create short and simple professional-looking manuals or guides.

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Texmacs

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.175.97.17] on March 27, 2008 05:14 PM
TeXmacs will provide "real" WYSIWYG TeX display, but the output is somewhat questionable.

I have tried dumping LaTeX from TeXmacs and importing, viewing, editing in Kile, Texmaker, and LyX with poor results. This could be attributable to my incomplete understanding of the nuances between TeX implementations, however..

For getting the gist of TeX document formatting, it's a great tool, IMO.

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Re: Texmacs

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.96.10.10] on March 27, 2008 08:43 PM
Another reasonable WYSIWYG LaTeX editor would be Lyx: http://www.lyx.org/ .... oh well, they call it a WYSIWYM editor. ;)

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Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.188.24.52] on March 27, 2008 08:13 PM
Have a look at LyX ( http://www.lyx.org/ ); it's my favourite and it is fully WYSIWYG.

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Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.226.140.220] on March 27, 2008 09:36 PM
To get really nicely typeset output (pdf files through pdflatex) you might want to have a look at the microtype package. It uses some nifty features such as kerning, and fontwidths to transform the already beautiful default output into truly professional quality typeset text (and math obviously).

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Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 211.111.253.47] on March 28, 2008 02:55 PM
See also Lout, which is a text formatting tool like LaTex

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Try TeXlipse

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 88.72.235.84] on March 28, 2008 04:10 PM
<style="font-size=25px;">I have tried them all, and liked none of them. Eventually, however, hit TeXlipse which is truly awesome and beats kile etc. big time. Give it a go if you want a proper professional tool, you'll be amazed.</style>

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Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 62.78.253.74] on March 29, 2008 05:48 AM
I would suggest using a word processor with good spellcheck & grammar check for editing the document and only use texmaker et co for adding the latex macros when finished with the editing. LaTeX is great for typesetting, but these editors s*** for writing a book.

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Re: Texmaker tames LaTeX

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 134.130.35.174] on March 31, 2008 02:06 PM
Have you tried LyX? I see no reason to go through a non-LaTeX word processor, when LyX IS a "word-processor" (to a great extend) that automatically generates LaTeX (behind the scenes). LyX user interface and experience is very similar to that of a word-processor (menus, dialogues, no or little onscreen mark-up, etc). However, you can always insert "true" LaTeX into LyX (if/when necessary/convenient). LyX file format is substantially similar (if not identical) to LaTeX. As far as I know, the primary different between LyX "native" format and LaTeX is that LyX's internal format does NOT TRY to be "human readable"... thus, opened with a regular editor, a LyX-formatted file looks like "strange" LaTeX... to obtain a human-readable version of a LyX file, one simply exports it to LaTeX... opened with normal editors, the LyX file, and the exported LaTeX file look quite similar.

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